South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy (MOTIE) and the UK’s Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) signed a Clean Energy Partnership during the state visit of President Yoon Suk Yeo to the UK. The partnership was signed by MOTIE’s Minister Bang Moon Kyu and the UK Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho. It reaffirms their consensus on the initiatives of the Carbon Free Alliance, expanding technology collaboration in clean energy and establishing high-level discussions on these agendas.

The two governments agreed to establish “the broadest possible relationship” spanning the entire nuclear fuel cycle, including the construction of new reactors, nuclear fuel, decommissioning and radioactive waste management. Korea and the UK will seek opportunities for cooperation in developing small modular reactors (SMRs), large reactors and advanced nuclear reactors in their own or third countries.

The Korean government plans to holding a sixth nuclear industry dialogue through consultation with the UK and to support the launching of new reactor projects between the two countries’ companies and institutions.

Coutinho said: “The UK and the Republic of Korea already have a strong relationship on energy security and tackling climate change. The new partnership … will see us collaborate even more closely, driving forward shared plans to accelerate clean energy sources, like renewables and nuclear power. This will help us make the green transition, while supporting the injection of more than £10bn into the UK economy from South Korean businesses and the thousand skilled jobs that come with that.”

The governments also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in offshore wind power. The UK plans to expand its nuclear power capacity to 24 GWe by 2050, and deliver up to 50 GWe of offshore wind power capacity and 10 GWe for and hydrogen production by 2030.

According to the UK Government, the partnership will see both countries commit to:

  • strengthening cooperation on civil nuclear, including on large scale, small scale and advanced reactors, decommissioning and waste management, and supply chains;
  • sharing information and lessons learned on offshore wind to support UK and Korea’s ambitions, collaborating on barriers to deployment and exploring commercial opportunities through the annual Offshore Wind Policy Dialogue;
  • exploring shared priorities for UK-Korea hydrogen collaboration, building on engagement through existing forums; reinforcing existing cooperation on grids and infrastructure between Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), Ofgem and the National Grid to enhance existing technical, policy, R&D and commercial exchange;
  • enhancing R&D cooperation via the UK-Korea Science, Technology & Innovation Partnership, and to deepen cooperation via other channels including Mission Innovation.

The UK Government said the clean energy partnership will elevate existing areas of bilateral cooperation on energy between the two countries, in particular building on the UK-Korea Civil Nuclear Dialogue and the previously agreed UK-Korea Offshore Wind Memorandum of Understanding to accelerate offshore wind deployment.

MOTIE also announced that nine MOUs were signed between Korea and the UK during the state visit. A UK-Korea MOU on nuclear co-operation designates nuclear new build as a core area for collaboration and advances cooperation between Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), while also leveraging a director general-level dialogue channel to launch nuclear new build technical meetings. The MOU establishes a foundation for resuming joint efforts on new reactor projects since Kepco’s bid on the UK’s Moorside nuclear power project fell through in 2019.

A further eight MOUs were signed in the private sector, encompassing the entire nuclear fuel cycle, including engineering and design, nuclear fuel, management and maintenance, radioactive waste, decommissioning, industrial and academic exchanges, with aim to establish “the broadest possible relationship.”

Team Korea, comprising Kepco, Kepco Nuclear Fuel and Kepco Plant Service & Engineering (Kepco KPS) signed an MOU with the UK’s Wales Nuclear Forum, Mactech Energy Group, Mott MacDonald, AB5 Consulting and Hayward Tyler. The accumulated knowhow and experience gained from these MOUs can contribute to reducing the time (from five years down to four) and cost (by over 10 percent) in obtaining the essential licenses required for entering the UK market. Kepco E&C and Mott MacDonald are already working together on the Barakah NPP in the UAE.

The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the Korea Radioactive Waste Agency (KORAD) signed their second cooperation statement undertaking to support various types of cooperation related to radioactive waste management, used fuel storage and disposal and decommissioning. It includes: the exchange of scientists, engineers and other specialists for participation in agreed research, development, analysis, design and experimental activities; exchanging and providing information and data on science and technology research and stakeholder engagement activities; and observation of, and participation in, relevant studies and/or developing joint studies through shared funding or contributions in kind.

Image: UK Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho and Korea's Minister for Trade, Industry & Energy, Bang Moon Kyu at the signing ceremony (courtesy of @ClaireCoutinho)